Richard and I were lucky enough to have a beautifully sunny weekend in Blackpool which we used to celebrate our anniversary of being a couple for six years! We found the town itself very accessible with many of the main attractions really thinking about accessibility and how they can help a disabled visitor. During our weekend we visited the top of Blackpool Tower (the Tower Eye), the Tower Ballroom, the beach and a few accessible bars and nightclubs. If you want more information on any of these things then do drop me a line on Instagram (@disabledtravelwithgeorgina) or email (email@example.com). The hotel we stayed in was the New Mayfair Hotel (http://safehandsholidays.co.uk/blackpool/) which is conveniently located at the South Promenade of Blackpool and within walkable/ ‘wheelable’ distance of the Pleasure Beach and the accessible tram system that runs all the way down the coast. The location was absolutely ideal as we found free parking close by or the hotel does have a small car park you can use if it isn’t full. Safehands are a holiday company that cater specifically in holidays for disabled guests. Therefore, the whole stay was highly accessible and there were lots of great “extras” that you could add to your stay if you had a more profound disability or illness than myself. These included hiring carers to visit your hotel room for personal care, using the hotel’s accessible minibus to book accessible day excursions around the surrounding area and use of hotel slings and hoists. The access in and around the hotel was top notch but we found that some of their facilities needed maintenance throughout the hotel and that the food wasn’t quite to our personal taste. I’ll go into more detail about these bits below. The hotel was approached by a slowly inclining ramp which was easy for Richard to push me up and at the top of the ramp there were automatic doors. The staff didn’t mention this to us upon check-in but they lock these at certain times at the evening so you have to use the doorbell to enter. We had been to meet friends at a bar so arrived when these were locked one evening but only had to wait five minutes for a staff member to open them. Around the entrance there were benches outside if you wanted air and guests used this as a smoking area. The Reception check-in desk included a lowered worktop area which was great so I could see the staff member when sat in my wheelchair. We were signed in very quickly but weren’t given any information on meal times or directions to our room until we asked. The staff member on duty came to our room after we had been there for about half an hour to give us details on Cabaret show and meal times in a printed leaflet; presumably he had forgotten to give us this at Reception when we arrived? This information was really helpful but didn’t include a few things like check out times although we found that information later in the hotel directory in the room (peculiarly this was written underneath the Central Heating heading!). Check out time was 10am and rooms were ready to check in and enter by 3pm. I loved the modern decor of the Reception area, the inclusion of leaflets from around the area and the fish tank which would perhaps make a great first impression on guests with sensory processing disorders!
The modern decor continued into the communal areas of the restaurant, lounge bar area and games room. I loved that they had used wooden flooring which made wheeling my wheelchair easier than on carpet and that they had left lots of clear open spaces to allow my wheelchair easy access and the ability to turn. The room was decorated for a ‘pink party’ when we arrived so many of the staff and guest wore pink, including to evening dinner. This would have been a really fun way to celebrate bank holiday with the Cabaret singers, bingo and raffles after dinner. The bar was well-stocked but it took a while to find a staff member to serve us drinks as there weren’t very many on duty despite it being a popular bank holiday weekend. There was plenty of choice and the drinks weren’t too badly priced though! The games room was a great addition to the hotel! In the games room was a pile of jigsaws and board games you could use in there or carry into your room or the lounge. The pool table used a £1 coin to release the balls whilst the cues and chalk were already in the room. Perhaps a little notice saying which coin to use would be useful here as we had to wait to find a staff member to ask. Also, the storage of extra chairs around the table made certain angles hard for the wheelchair to access the table at.
I loved the fact that the hotel had spare wheelchairs available and that you could hire out mobility scooters in advance or on the day if they were available. The hotel also catered for guests who needed clinical waste disposal or required laundry services which was great! There are also the usual celebration extras you can add to your room such as a cake, balloons, flowers or a picnic hamper if you are celebrating something special! If your room isn’t situated on the Ground Floor then don’t be daunted by the staircase that you can see from Reception as the hotel provided lift access to every floor which was great! There was a medical alert red pull cord inside the lift which was very reassuring and the floor buttons were easily reachable from wheelchair height (a nice touch!). However, the cleaner had left white residue from a cleaning product that hadn’t been buffed off on all of the lift doors which looked unnecessarily unsightly. Also, our suite was located on the third floor which had a fairly tight turning as you exit the lift. However, Richard is an ace driver so my toes were completely spared!
Our suite was really large and had a lovely sea view from each of the windows which was very nice in the sunny bank holiday weather! Our particular room (Suite 4) had one room with three single beds and an adjoining room with two single beds. There were two separate wet room shower and toilet areas in the suite so it would be a perfect area for a family travelling together or a group of adults requiring overnight carers to sleep in a neighbouring room! There was plenty of space and a hoist was available to access every single one of the beds if required. You can bring your own sling or hire one in advance from Reception. Some of the beds were care beds/ nursing beds which meant they had a remote control attachment so you could raise the bed back into a seated position, raise a triangle section in the centre of the bed so the guest’s knees were raised and bent or flatten the entire bed quickly in an emergency situation. This is a great feature if a guest needs changing by carers or needs pressure areas altering at regular intervals to prevent bed sores. The beds were comfy and I could access every side of them when using my wheelchair.
The bathrooms were wet rooms with plenty of hand rails to help around the toilet and the sink area. A wheeled commode was available if required. The shower was enclosed by a half height plastic barrier that opened fully so I could wheel my chair right into the entrance. You then pulled curtains around the shower area. There wan’t a shower seat or stool in the shower or attached to the wall but perhaps you needed to ask for this if required from Reception? The bathroom was very clean and I loved the fact that it was a wet room so I could access every part of it. I was a little surprised not to find an air freshener in the bathroom or the toilet nearest the restaurant area as these can often be helpful for guests with GI issues or changing needs. Also, the bathroom bin in the bedroom was placed by the sink rather than the toilet which makes feminine hygiene requirements complicated for a disabled adult. The bathroom cabinet handle kept falling off and one of the bathroom showers had a broken bracket so it had to be held by hand rather than mounted on a pole on the wall.
Elsewhere in the bedroom, a wheelchair user had clearly been thought about! The floor length mirror was mounted at a brilliant height so I could check my outfit from a seated position but there was also a desktop mirror on the dresser. The room included a medium sized TV which worked well, plentiful hanging space and drawers. There were also tea, coffee and hot chocolate making facilities in both of the adjoining rooms with some nice biscuits that we enjoyed after our hard journey from home to the hotel! The hotel directory included some really useful information such as telephone numbers for nearby doctors and where to locate your nearest places of worship. The directory stated that the hotel had free WiFi (great!) but didn’t list the password weirdly. There also wasn’t a telephone to call down to Reception which was really unusual. The directory also mentions that ironing boards are available on request which was true but the board cover was highly stained from a previous guest’s use which wasn’t pleasant. The room was of a very generous size and was lovely and clean but had a few DIY issues a maintenance staff member could have easily sorted out!
The hotel has an absolutely brilliant location for wheelchair users and their able-bodied companions alike since it is located very nearby a bus stop and a tram service and also near to a ramp down to the beach. We used the tram to get into Blackpool town centre regularly throughout our stay. You just park the wheelchair on the wheelchair icon located by the side of the tram tracks and the tram pulls up so the doors are directly ahead of you. There are two designated wheelchair seats on each tram and conductors on hand if you need assistance. An unlimited 24 hour day rider only cost £5 each which was far easier and cheaper than hunting for parking on a bank holiday! Alternatively, if you do want to drive then car parks run by Blackpool Council give you 3 hours of free parking with a blue badge when you use a disabled parking space.
Richard and I returned to the hotel in time to have our evening dinner there. The menu varies each day and you can view these in the hallway towards the dining area. There is always a vegetarian option and other allergies and special dietary requirements are catered for upon request. The food choice seems really varied and I’m sure there would be something for everyone! You are allocated a particular table for the duration of your stay and that creates a really lovely feel in the dining area as you talk to your fellow guests and see how their days have been. We dined in the restaurant on a Saturday evening and for starter I had the fish cake and Richard had the vegetable soup and freshly baked roll. Both of these dishes were really tasty and arrived at the table promptly. We enjoyed them!
For once Richard and I ordered the same main course; haddock with a hollandaise sauce, mashed potato and broccoli. This arrived very promptly too, perhaps too promptly as we had literally just finished our starters but this was understandable since Dinner was served over a slightly smaller time window than in larger hotel chains. I found the main course rather bland, there were quite a few bones in the haddock and the broccoli was overcooked to my taste. However, the sauce was very creamy and the food was served hot.For dessert Richard ordered the cheeseboard which gave three different options of cheese; blue stilton, red leicester and brie with crackers and grapes. There was plenty of cheese to sample here! My dessert was written on the menu as a strawberry cheesecake but I was told it would be creme brûlée instead which was perfect as I love that! However, it still had canned strawberries in and the creme was rather runny which is unusual for that dessert. It was served with a delicious shortbread biscuit though and a perfectly set sugared top.
There was a disabled accessible toilet very close by to the dining area but unfortunately it was rather dirty on several occasions during our stay and the door lock broke after the first night. Obviously this isn’t the hotel staff’s fault at all but a sign on the door mentioning the faulty lock wouldn’t have gone amiss as we wheeled in on a gentleman on the toilet which was embarrassing for everyone concerned! To be fair to the hotel there were a multitude of disabled guests with varying needs visiting at the time so the toilet was in use a lot. More regular cleaning checks on the bathroom might help the situation.
There was a Cabaret act on in the evening that many of the guests really enjoyed since the songs were very uplifting! They were followed by Bingo and a Raffle. Richard and I popped out to visit friends at a bar after our meal and had a lovely night of sleep in the comfy beds. Breakfast was served from 8.30-9.30am in the same restaurant as evening dinner. There was unlimited tea and coffee and there was table service which is so much better than wheelchair users struggling to carry a self-service plate across a dining area! There were cereals, fruit juices, grapefruit/prunes and yoghurts available to begin with. After that you could order an English Breakfast with sausage, bacon, tomato, baked beans, fried bread and your choice of eggs (scrambled, poached, fried). Additionally you could add hash browns, black pudding and mushrooms to your breakfast. Alternatively there were also lighter options of eggs, kippers or beans on toast or smoked haddock with a poached egg which gave lots of choice! The Full English portion wasn’t overwhelming so we had room for lunch later and the food arrived very promptly and was warm. It was also served with toast.
We were a little disappointed that there was no luggage room to store our suitcases in for the final day when we stayed at the hotel but cases were left instead openly by Reception under the staircase. We tried checking out before breakfast but after waiting 20 minutes for a staff member, we had breakfast before handing our key back. Overall, we found Blackpool to be a very accessible destination and the hotel was particularly good for wheelchair users to access fully. The location was brilliant with free parking and an accessible tram within easy distance. There were a few tweaks that the hotel could have made to make our experience better and could improve the hotel massively. Generally though, the hotel catered to my needs very well and would especially be great if you or your loved one had a more progressive or serious disability or illness as I LOVED the option to hire care through the hotel.
Do consider Blackpool as your next accessible holiday destination; I’m more than happy to answer any questions about the hotel, public transport or attractions via firstname.lastname@example.org.